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11.05.2009 Feature Article

Epidemics: the pig`s turn

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“Some men there are love not a gaping pig”—Shylock in Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. FIRST, IT was the avian or bird flu that ravaged like an epidemic around the world.

Hundreds of thousands of fowls were slaughtered, or as the term goes, were “culled”. The epidemic raged mostly in Asia, but we in Ghana were also affected. Our poultry farmers incurred losses. Food vendors saw the demand for chicken plummet, as people feared for their lives. Fortunately, we seem to have forgotten about the menace, as chicken is back on the menu.

Now it is pig or porcine or swine flu that, originating from Mexico, threatens lives and business.

To date, it is reported that there has been a death in the United States. It is said that over one thousand cases have been recorded in twenty countries. And the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the danger has not passed away yet.

The airline business is in serious trouble as potential passengers are afraid to travel. Blue masks over the nose are everywhere. The swine flu has become a subject for TALKING POINT, a programme aired on GBC-TV. Local sellers of pork are complaining of low sales, just as it happened when the bird flu raged.

Some Ghanaians like pork, including the animal's pickled feet, commonly called “prekontwere” or “kpootoo nani”, etc. Ghana is not the only place where pork is consumed.

The WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA (1993 (Edition) states that about a fourth of the meat eaten in the United States comes from pigs, or hogs, as they prefer to call it over there.

In the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany and elsewhere, the flesh of the pig is processed and eaten as pork chops, spare ribs, ham, bacon, sausage, etc. Sausage from pork has such varieties as wieners, bologna, bratwurst, braunstscweigner and salami.

The Encyclopedia under reference also states that in the United States people eat pig intestines and fried pig skin, as well as the stomach, kidneys, liver, ears, brain, snout, jowls, lips, tongue and throat.

The Book also tells us that the pig has other uses. The skin is processed for such uses as belts, gloves, jackets and shoes. Brushes are made from its hair, and it is also used to provide stuffing for mattresses and baseball gloves.

Its blood is used to make animal feeds, fertiliser, and medicines. Drug firms also use the glands of the pig to make insulin and other medicines.

The fat of the pig is made into lard, soap, candles, salves, shaving cream, explosives and lubricating oils. The bones of the pig are ground for glue, fertiliser, animal feeds and bone oil. It is all there in THE WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA.

For all its demonstrated usefulness, the pig is not exactly everyone's friend.

When the term “pig” is used in a colloquial sense, it means “a greedy, dirty, obstinate, sulky or annoying person.” (THE CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY, COD). To be “pig-headed” means to be obstinate. To “make a pig of oneself” is to overact.

To “pig it” means “to live in a disorderly, untidy or filthy fashion.” (COD). To cool themselves, pigs like to wallow in mud, thus dirtying themselves. This has given rise to the saying that no matter how well you wash a pig, it will wallow in mud.

Its other name, “swine” does not do it any good either. Used colloquially, it is “a term of contempt or disgust for a person.” (COD).

The dietary laws of Judaism and Islam forbid the eating of the flesh processed into any form.

In Leviticus Chapter 11 of the Holy Bible, one of the land animals which the Jews were forbidden to eat is the pig. Chapter 11 Verse 7 states, “And the swine, though he divide the hoof and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.”

When Bassanio invites Shylock the Jew to dine with him and Anthony and others, Shylock scornfully rejects the invitation, saying, “Yes, to smell pork, to eat of the habitation which your Prophet, the Nazarite , conjured the devil into.”

By the term ”habitation”, Shylock was referring to the story in Matthew Chapter 8 Verses 28-34 in which Jesus was said to have cast out devils inhabiting two men, put the devils in a herd of pigs, which straight away headed towards the sea and perished.

For Muslims, Chapter 5, Verse 4 (Verse 3 in some translations) states, “Forbidden to you is the flesh of an animal that dies of itself, and blood and the flesh of swine; and that on which is invoked the name of any other than Allah.” The same verse mentions other categories of animals whose flesh should not be eaten, unless the person is driven to the extremities of starvation.

The verse states, “But whosoever is forced by hunger, without being willfully inclined to sin, then surely Allah is Most Forgiving and is Merciful.” It may not be religion, but personal preference which stops some people from eating the flesh of a pig.

Some simply find the pig repulsive and revolting to behold. Its snout, curved tail and dirty habits do not endure it to such persons.

In our part of the world, people tend to use the “free range” method of rearing animals. The sight of a snorting pig scavenging for food on garbage heaps is not a pleasant one. There are other reasons why some people avoid the pig and its flesh.

The pig is mostly fat, and doctors, dieticians and nutritionists warn against the consumption of fat, especially animal fat.

While other animals whose flesh we eat can also suffer from diseases, the pig seems to have more than its fair share. Tape worms and the worm known as trichinia are known to be more prevalent among pork-eating people.

As I was writing this article, I heard someone on television telling listeners that the transmission of the swine flu is no longer from pig to humans, but from humans to humans.

This expert assured us that even now it is safe to eat pork, and that all we needed to do was to pay attention to personal hygiene, such as the washing of hands. He confidently told his listeners that he had no qualms about eating pork.

As for me, like Shylock, I will not eat pork. My mind is made up, so no so-called expert should “confuse me with facts,” as they reportedly say in America. Fortunately, I have enough choice of animal flesh to enable me to stay off pork forever, as I have been doing since birth.

Let pork eaters eat pork, and good luck to them.

Ghanaian Chronicle
Ghanaian Chronicle, © 2009

The author has 1023 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: GhanaianChronicle

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